It’ll be one year next month since the world was introduced to Ieshia Evans: A 35-year-old woman who stood silently, unflinchingly, in protest against the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile at the hands of law enforcement.
The image, now titled “Taking a Stand in Baton Rouge,” was captured by Jonathan Bachman for Reuters and was immediately met with backlash.
Backlash against her audaciousness. Backlash against her disregard of authority. Backlash against her lack of subservience. Backlash against her refusal to accept the effects of systematic and institutional racism. Backlash against her very existence.
None of this is surprising.
Why? Well, this is what I know: Racism, oppression and discrimination is built into the very fabric of American culture and history has shown that when African-Americans progress, this country delivers swift punishment. So, although unsettling and completely illogical, it’s not altogether surprising that the powerful imagery elicited such a visceral reaction.
Unfortunately, logic doesn’t always reign supreme. If it did, there would be a broad understanding that the root cause of protests ought always be understood, acknowledged and subsequently addressed.
How soon this country forgets that slaves running away from their “masters” was once illegal.
African-American students and their Caucasian allies sitting at a lunch counter was once illegal.
An exhausted woman sitting at an available seat at the front of the bus was once illegal.
Marriage between an African-American and a Caucasian was once illegal.
Opposing the statutes set forth in the Jim Crow era was once illegal.
Bottom Line: Legality is not the backbone of morality and protest is, by all intents and purposes, a disruption.
A disruption of the status quo; a disruption of antiquated ideologies; a disruption of current socio-economic and racial climates; a disruption of injustice; a disruption of weariness; and etcetera.
Protest is SUPPOSED to disrupt.
“Taking a Stand in Baton Rouge“ is more than just an iconic snapshot. It represents a disproportionate level of force in the face of peaceful resistance; a firm foundation in the midst of oppression (perceived or not); the all encompassing strength of a woman; and unwavering fortitude despite unfavorable odds.
It’s amazing. Absolutely amazing.